Friday, May 20, 2016

March 31, 1940: The Tiger Cage

Sunday 31 March 1940

31 March 1940 Atlantis armed merchant cruiser
A 5.9 inch gun on the Atlantis, disguises as "industrial machinery" bound for the Philippines.
Battle of the Atlantic: It was a quiet week to end March 1940 in the endless Battle of the Atlantic, with only one British ship, the SS Daghestan of 5,742 tons, lost. For the entire month of March 1940, losses are:
  • 45 Allied ships
  • 107,009 tons
  • 3 U-boats sunk.
The German armed merchant cruisers (Hilfskreuzer) Atlantis, Orion and Widder set out on 31 March 1940 from Kiel for extended solo missions. It is the first mission for Atlantis. They will be resupplied at sea in the same fashion as happened with the Admiral Graf Spee. World War I-era battleship SMS Hessen acts as an icebreaker and escort for the first part of their journey. These ships are heavily armed and designed to appear as neutral vessels, complete with actual false flags.

In one of those odd incidents that happen in the real world but not in war games, Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Wilhelm Behrens somehow falls overboard from U-43 and drowns.

Convoy OA 120G departs from Scotland, and Convoy OB 120 departs from Liverpool, while Convoy HX 31 departs from Halifax.

31 March 1940 Atlantis
The Atlantis taking on water at Kerguelen.
European Air Operations: Luftwaffe planes attack the Shetlands and the Orkneys, but drop no bombs. A Spitfire from Coastal Command patrolling the east coast of Suffolk damages a Dornier Do 17, which limps home. A Belgian fishing trawler fired upon a German bomber.

There also are interventions by Allied fighters over France. Hurricane fighters chase off a Dornier Do 17 at maximum altitude, 19,000 feet.

Luftwaffe Bf 109s intercept French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters. The MS 406 is France's best fighter. The Messerschmitts inflict heavy damage on the French fighters near Morhange.

Western Front: The British 44th Infantry Division begins shipping to France. The New York Times is cynical about the course of the war:
As the 8th month of war begins, it seems likely April will be much like March, with no large-scale military operations." It illustrates the parochialism of American newspapers and US society in general, as the Finns and Chinese certainly would disagree that there have been no "large-scale military operations.
Anglo-French Relations: The French are not interested in mining the Rhine River, which is a favored project of the British. In return, the British call off the mining of the Norwegian territorial waters, Operation Wilfred. The two sides are annoyed with the other for not supporting their respective pet projects, and the interesting feature is that each nation only wants the project completed that the other would actually implement. Thus, the two separate operations have basically become quid pro quos for each other. Chamberlain explodes in frustration at the French unwillingness to implement Operation Royal Marine in the Rhine and tells Charles Corbin, the French ambassador, "No mines, no Narvik!"

Estonia: The Soviets have been occupying bases in Estonia per the agreement reached in 1939. Tallinn now reports that the Soviets are demanding immediate possession of Baltiski, which the Soviets have leased as of 1 May.

Finland: The Soviet government wastes no time incorporating the newly acquired territories in Finland into the Soviet construct. The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic is created, with the territory including the Karelian Isthmus and the cities of Viipuri and Sortavala.

British Homefront: As noted previously, the British government has grown concerned about the increasing number of evacuated children and others who have returned to vulnerable cities over the past six months. While 1 million schoolchildren were evacuated in the days following 3 September 1939, only about 300,000 remain in their evacuation areas.

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill gives a radio speech, "Dwelling in the Cage with the Tiger," the title being the dilemma of small neutral countries living with Germany nearby. The main thrust of the talk is aimed at the Dutch and the other neutral nations in the path of German expansionism. He castigates them for not joining the Allied war effort sooner:
It might have been a very short war, perhaps, indeed, there might have been no war, if all the neutral States, who share our conviction upon fundamental matters, and who openly or secretly sympathize with us, had stood together at one signal and in one line.
Churchill makes the point their attempt to coexist with the Germans, in fact, is condemning them to servitude:
But the fact is that many of the smaller States of Europe are terrorized by German violence and brutality into supplying Germany with the material of modern war, and this fact may condemn the whole world to a prolonged ordeal with grievous, unmeasured consequences in many lands.
Churchill broadly hints that the time for respecting international law has passed:
"There could be no justice if in a moral struggle the aggressor tramples down every sentiment of humanity, and if those who resist him remain entangled in the tatters of violated legal conventions."
It is a popular address, and Winston Churchill is one of the great orators of his time and any other time. When looked at closely, the speech betrays barely concealed cynicism about the futility of trying to find accommodation with the Reich. It also betrays a sense that the war is descending into unique savagery and lawlessness. One can liken his prescription to, fight fire with fire.

Separately, the British government institutes paper rationing for publishing and printing companies.

Italy: Mussolini has an audience with King Victor Emmanuel and informs him that Italy will ally with Germany and fight a "parallel" war against the Allies.

Iraq: Rashid Ali al-Gailani becomes Prime Minister. This is a pro-Axis change, as Ali is considered anti-British.

China: The Japanese troops complete their withdrawal from Wuyuan toward Anpei and Paotou. The Chinese 8th War Area does not occupy the city yet.

The new Japanese puppet government of China headed by Ching-wei officially invites Japan to occupy China. Germany and Italy quickly recognize the new government.

American Homefront: Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" has been No. 1 on the jukebox charts for 12 straight weeks.

Future History: Barney Frank is born in Bayonne, New Jersey. He becomes a powerful Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts for many years beginning in 1981 and currently works in media.

March 1940

March 1, 1940: Soviet Breakthroughs Past Viipuri
March 2, 1940: Soviets Swarm West in Finland
March 3, 1940: Soviets Across Gulf of Viipuri
March 4, 1940: USSR Apologizes to Sweden
March 5, 1940: Katyn Forest Massacre Approved
March 6, 1940: Finns Head to Moscow
March 7, 1940: The Coal Ships Affair
March 8, 1940: Peace Talks Begin in Moscow
March 9, 1940: Soviets Harden Peace Terms
March 10, 1940: Germany Draws Closer to Italy
March 11, 1940: Winter War Peace Terms Finalized
March 12, 1940: War is Over (If You Want It)
March 13, 1940: Winter War Ends
March 14, 1940: Evacuating Karelia
March 15, 1940: The Bletchley Bombe
March 16, 1940: First British Civilian Killed
March 17, 1940: Enter Dr. Todt
March 18, 1940: Mussolini To Join the War
March 19, 1940: Daladier Resigns
March 20, 1940: Soviets Occupy Hango Naval Base
March 21, 1940: Paul Reynaud Leads France
March 22, 1940: Night Fighters Arise!
March 24, 1940: French Consider Alternatives
March 25, 1940: Reynaud Proposes Action
March 26, 1940: C-46 First Flight
March 27, 1940: Himmler Authorizes Auschwitz Construction
March 28, 1940: Allies Ponder Invading Norway
March 29, 1940: Soviets Prefer Neutrality
March 30, 1940: Allied Uncertainty
March 31, 1940: The Tiger Cage

April 1940

April 1, 1940: Weserubung is a Go
April 2, 1940: British Subs On Alert
April 3, 1940: Churchill Consolidates Power
April 4, 1940: Missed the Bus
April 5, 1940: Mig-1 First Flight
April 6, 1940: Troops Sailing to Norway
April 7, 1940: Fleets At Sea
April 8, 1940: HMS Glowworm and Admiral Hipper
April 9, 1940: Invasion of Norway
April 10, 1940: First Battle of Narvik
April 11, 1940: Britain Takes the Faroes
April 12, 1940: Germans Consolidate in Norway
April 13, 1940: 2d Battle of Narvik
April 14, 1940: Battle of Dombås
April 15, 1940: British in Norway
April 16, 1940: Germans Cut Norway in Half
April 17, 1940: Trondheim the Target
April 18, 1940: Norway Declares War
April 19, 1940: Dombås Battle Ends
April 20, 1940: Germans Advancing in Norway
April 21, 1940: First US Military Casualty
April 22, 1940: First British Military Contact with Germans
April 23, 1940: British Retreating in Norway
April 24, 1940: British Bombard Narvik
April 25, 1940: Norwegian Air Battles
April 26, 1940: Norwegian Gold
April 27, 1940: Allies to Evacuate Norway
April 28, 1940: Prepared Piano
April 29, 1940: British at Bodo
April 30, 1940: Clacton-on-Sea Heinkel


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